Book, stay, enjoy. That's

Thursday 31 October 2019

Marlborough sauvignon blanc now globally protected

Appellation Marlborough Wine has now been trademarked in all the major global wine markets in a move designed to to protect the origin, authenticity and integrity of wines produced in the iconic New Zealand sauvignon blanc region.

With 49 members and more than 90 certified wines, the new Appellation Marlborough Wine mark will protect and promote wines from its member wineries that are made from 100% Marlborough grapes, grown sustainably from Marlborough vineyards and bottled in New Zealand.
With almost 300,000 acres of sauvignon blanc planted worldwide, Marlborough is keen to ensure a point of difference with other regions.

A remarkable 85% of all wine exported from New Zealand is Marlborough sauvignon blanc, with a total export value reaching a record $NZ1.83 billion according to the 2019 Annual Report of New Zealand Winegrowers.

The crucial factors are quality and authenticity. A renowned wine region's reputation for quality is critically important to protect for its producers.

Appellation Marlborough Wine was created in 2018 with a strict certification process that the region’s producers are able to apply for.
To use the AMW brand, members have to ensure the wine is made from grapes grown entirely in Marlborough and cropped at or below set parameters, established according to soil type and vine density variability.

If a proposed wine contains any portion exceeding that level, it must be approved by an independent panel of qualified, experienced local producers.

The wines must come from grapes harvested from vineyards certified by Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand, and must be bottled in New Zealand, under New Zealand regulations.

Chair of Appellation Marlborough Wine Ivan Sutherland, owner of Dog Point Vineyards, said there were now over 90 sauvignon blanc labels wearing the quality mark, helping giving consumers confidence in the provenance of their wine.

“Appellation Marlborough Wine is about protecting the reputation this region has worked hard to build," Sutherland said. "It provides the wine buying public of the world with an assurance they can see and trust.

“We’ve now trademarked the brand in all of the key global wine markets which has been a huge undertaking. This is the first step in protecting NZ wine that has become a global icon.”

Cloudy Bay estate director Yang Shen said the AMW brand was a necessary evolution for a maturing wine industry, with an increasing range of producers, wines, markets and motivations.

“Our members know that it is vital to protect the integrity of our industry, recognising that Marlborough wine is globally unique, extraordinary and 100% worth protecting.”

Tread softly, enjoy wine in moderation and help the planet

At a time when the future of the planet is foremost in lots of minds, it is good to know that at least one wine company is committed to doing its bit to help the environment. 

For every case of Tread Softly wine sold, Fourth Wave Wines plants a tree in conjunction with Carbon Neutral. 

So far Tread Softly has committed to 15,000 new trees being planted in a biodiversity corridor at Yarra Yarra in Western Australia. 

Tread Softly is being promoted as a "a new breed of moderate alcohol wine that’s not only good for the consumer, it’s better for the environment, too."

Tread Softly uses sustainable vineyard management to ensure the production has a minimal impact on the environment and is dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint.  

Every aspect has been considered; it says, from reduced water usage and renewable solar energy as well as packaging where the glass bottle is significantly lighter and the label is made from uncoated paper stock.

The seedlings are planted once a year in winter after the first heavy rains and this year Carbon Neutral planted 330 hectares with some 94,500 seedlings sown. 

With the aid of Tread Softly they aim to improve upon this and already have plans for an additional 446 hectares  be planted in 2020.

Co-founder of Tread Softly Nicholas Crampton says his team is also working on “making the entire range carbon neutral from vine to store."

The range includes a prosecco, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, rosé and pinot noir. They retail for around $16 a bottle.   

The wines are available through Dan Murphy’s or via

Wednesday 30 October 2019

Won the lottery? Here is the perfect cruise experience for you.

If you've won the lottery recently - or carry a handy American Express black card on your person - then this may be a cruise experience for you. 

As they sail the globe, guests staying in the Regent Suite on board the new Seven Seas Splendor, are being promised "the most natural, deeply relaxing sleep in the world".

Think a $250,000 hand-made mattress filled with horsetail hair, cushioning flax, slow-growing pine, superior wool and long-fibre cotton; bed linens made from batiste makò cotton and 100% virgin white down from Alaskan geese and a Serene Spa & Wellness restorative sleep ritual treatment.

All are ingredients to what the cruise line hopes will be sleep experience to match the price tag of a suite on the newest Regent Seven Seas Cruises ship launching in February, 

The Regent Suite features an in-suite spa retreat featuring a personal sauna, steam room and treatment area with unlimited spa treatments, unobstructed 270-degree views over Seven Seas Splendor’s bow from the 120 square-metre wrap-around veranda, and a glass-enclosed solarium sitting area on top of the bridge. 

Guests in the Regent Suite also enjoy a dedicated personal butler to manage all the details of their experience - and a personal car with driver and guide in every port. The cost is an eye-watering $15,000 per night, based on double occupancy.

“A great night’s sleep is essential to overall health and well-being, and the holistic Regent Suite sleep experience is personalised for each guest to help them soothe their mind, body and spirit at night after they immerse themselves in the world’s mesmerising destinations during the day,” says Jason Montague, president and CEO of Regent Seven Seas Cruises. 

“Deep, relaxing sleep has become an elusive luxury for many and nowhere else at sea can luxury travellers find such a restorative, customised night’s sleep than in the Regent Suite.”

Seven Seas Splendor is currently being competed in Ancona, Italy, and will carry 750 guests. 

The all-suite, all-balcony ship has 375 suites in total, in a total of 14 categories.

Tariffs include all-suite accommodation, the largest collection of unlimited shore excursions, entertainment, unlimited internet access, personalised service, meals. fine wines and spirits, gratuities, transfers between hotel and ship and one-night, pre-cruise hotel packages for guests staying in Concierge-level suites and higher.

To learn more visit or call 1300 455 200. 

Tuesday 29 October 2019

Farewell Houghton; hello Yukich Estate

One of the most famous wineries in Australia has changed hands.

The Houghton winery in the Swan Valley of Western Australia, previously owned by Accolade Wines, has been re-named Nikola Estate and will be owned and run by the Yukich family, bringing it back into local hands.

Graeme Yukich and his brother Kim said: “We are very proud to be able to bring this iconic vineyard and heritage site back into Western Australian ownership.

“We will be re-branding the site to mark the change in ownership and to encourage rediscovery of all aspects of the business, from exciting wines to bespoke events and concerts.” The site is hugely popular with wine tourists.

Nikola Yukich emigrated from Croatia and planted his first vines in the Swan Valley more than 90 years ago. The family also owns Oakover Grounds, and has appointed Tony Robinson, formerly of Treasury Wine Estates, as COO.

The Yukich family’s other businesses include European Foods, Blue Cow Cheese, the FiORi and Crema coffee companies as well as Northbridge Coffee Roasters and Supreme Coffee Machines.

“Building upon these businesses, Nikola Estate will be offering the very best in food, coffee and wine to encourage visitors to rediscover the exquisite heritage buildings and gardens,” Graeme Yukich says.

“The re-branding of asset and communications will be taking place over summer – and Nikola Estate has already lined up some exciting and premium events for early in the New Year.”

Head to Auckland for the ultimate sporting weekend

It is being billed as the ultimate sporting weekend. 

The Auckland Blues rugby union team and the Auckland Warriors rugby league team will host a double-header at Mount Smart Stadium early next year. 

The two Auckland-based clubs held a joint press conference today to confirm that on March 21 the Warriors will take on the 2019 grand finalist Canberra Raiders in a National Rugby League game, followed by the Blues taking on the ACT Brumbies in the Super Rugby competition. 

It will be a unique cross code experience for fans of the Blues and Warriors and further confirms the solid relationship between the city's rugby and league clubs. 

The Warriors v Raiders game will be played first, with a kick off time of 5pm, followed by the Blues v Brumbies game at 7.35pm. 

Given the kick off times really keen sports fans could spend the day sailing on Auckland Harbour before the two game of rival codes of rugby. 

"The Blues are certainly delighted to be a part of this unique event," Blues chairman Don Mackinnon said at the launch.

Blues coach Leon MacDonald said he felt the days when people had to choose whether they liked league or rugby had gone.

"You were either a league man or a rugby man, but now we appreciate all sports," MacDonald said.

"I watch a lot of different sports and this is a great opportunity for sports lovers to come along and witness two quality games.

"Especially so because of the calibre of the games, the Raiders were fantastic finalists and people will be able to watch the Brumbies who'll be really strong, too.

"Those walls have been broken down and now people can just come along and enjoy sport."

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney agreed with MacDonald's comments.

"The times are different now," Kearney said.

"It's a great opportunity for supporters of the city and even regional supporters of our club, to come to Auckland and support us in the first game and then support the Blues."

Monday 28 October 2019

So you know a little bit about wine, but would like to learn more?

So you enjoy a glass or two of wine, know a little bit about fermented grape juice but would like to learn more? 

If you live in Sydney you are in luck, with the launch of QT Sydney's Wine Personal Training. 

The designer hotel's newest experience promises to keep things strictly fun as you sip on a tipple or two. 

With a curriculum created for all levels of wine knowledge, from those attending their first tasting session, to seasoned professional quaffers, QT Sydney's Wine PT aims to ensure participants' wine knowledge will be transformed in time for the party season.

Led by sommelier and former Champagne ambassador Chris Morrison (above) and bubbles expert Serena Carl, the 45-minute sessions will kick off from Thursday, October 31 and run every Thursday for five weeks.

Attendees can enrol per class or sign up to a complete program. 

QT Hotels group wine director Morrison said: “Just like physical fitness, everyone has to start somewhere with wine knowledge. The Wine Program that we've developed at QT Hotels is centred on our people helping to make selecting and drinking wine a fun, approachable and memorable experience. QT Sydney's Wine Personal Training is a natural extension of this, delivered with our signature quirk!”

QT Sydney's Wine PT kicks off October 31 in Gowings Bar on level one. Sessions run for 45minutes at 4.30pm and 5.30pm. It costs $55 per class or $225 for the full program (five sessions).

For more information or to book:

Disastrous fires in California vineyard country

California's governor has declared a state-wide emergency as bush fires forced thousands of people to evacuate and caused power blackouts, threatening towns in the famed Sonoma wine region.

The so-called Kincade Fire, located north of San Francisco, had spread to 30,000 acres (12,000 hectares) by Sunday evening local time. 
The blaze, the largest of more than a dozen wildfires burning throughout the state, has destroyed dozens of homes and wineries, including the Soda Rock Winery built in 1869.
The towns of Healdsburg and Geyserville, famous around the wine world, are close to the fires. 
Governor Gavin Newsom declared a statewide emergency on Sunday due to the "unprecedented" high winds that significantly raised the risk of fires spreading.
"We are deploying every resource available, and are coordinating with numerous agencies as we continue to respond to these fires," Newsom said in a statement. "It is critical that people in evacuation zones heed the warnings from officials and first responders, and have the local and state resources they need as we fight these fires."
An estimated 180,000 people were under mandatory evacuation orders, including in parts of Santa Rosa and a large swathe of Sonoma County.
"This is the largest evacuation that any of us at the Sheriff's Office can remember. Take care of each other," the Sonoma County sheriff's office said on Twitter. 
The Alexander Valley, which spans Healdsburg and Geyserville, is known for producing high-quality wines, especially cabernet sauvignon. It’s home to several well-known wineries, including Jordan, Silver Oak and Francis Ford Coppola.
The fires came after most wineries had completed their picking for the 2019 vintage. 

Sunday 27 October 2019

Tasmania's newest luxury vineyard-region gourmet getaway

Visitors to Tasmania’s Coal River Valley wine region – just outside Hobart – have a new luxury accommodation option that is owned by one of the island state’s most famous wine-making families.

Prospect House Private Hotel, one of Tasmania’s oldest and most elegant country house hotels, is open for business after new owners John and Libby Pooley invested more than $5 million in refurbishing and upgrading the historic property they bought in 2017.

Built with convict labour in 1830, Prospect House is a fine example of a Georgian-style country house.

When the Pooleys bought Prospect House it had been used as a private home for more than five years and hadn’t undergone a significant renovation since the 1970s.

It needed major remodelling and refurbishment to meet their vision for the property. The Pooleys then incorporated an eclectic mix of furnishings and antiques from their private collection to give every space its own character.

It's a truly charming place to wind down for a day or two with lovely grounds and beautiful surroundings.

‘We’ve always loved restoring and renovating period properties,” says John Pooley. “Prospect House was an ambitious project, but we’re delighted with what we’ve been able to achieve and are looking forward to sharing it with guests.”

Prospect House now has 12 guest suites to accommodate up to 24 guests and, with a minimum staff to guest ratio of around 1:2, aims to attract guests looking for a luxurious experience with exceptional hospitality and service in a heritage location.

Rooms have tablets with local information and all the usual hotel luxuries. All stays include
arrival beverages, afternoon tea, free wifi and Nespresso coffee and Poet teas.

Local experiences available include Pooley vineyard tours and tastings; in-room massage and wellness treatments; farmhouse picnic lunches and chauffeured private car transfers and tours.

The restaurant at Prospect House celebrates the farmers and producers of Tasmania’s south east - and is open to non in-house guests.

Head chef Kurstin Berriman’s menu focuses on seasonal and sustainable local produce, much of it sourced from the Coal River Valley.

The three-course dinner menu, which changes on an almost daily basis, includes entrees like a Rannoch farm quail with baby cos, pickled rhubarb, asparagus and parmesan (excellent!) and fried and crumbed ocean trout rillettes.

The Tarkine free-range pork loin might be a better bet for mains than a confit chicken Maryland with Cognac-marinated prunes and olives, which was strangely under-seasoned, as was a steak dish.

Dessert choice may include a rather yummy marscapone and cardamom semi-freddo, or a choice of gourmet cheeses. A three-course meal costs $85 per person.

Guests can enjoy fine Tasmanian wines, including a selection of cool-climate Coal River Valley wines - the 2017 Pooley Pinot Noir is excellent - and dine inside or under the stars in summer.

There is an honour bar for those wanting a late-night tipple; maybe a small-batch Tasmanian whisky in the lounge.

Situated within an easy stroll, bike ride or short drive from the historic village of Richmond - and just across the road from the Pooley Wines cellar door - Prospect House guests have plenty to occupy and entertain them.

Signature activities include cycling, tennis, golf and bird watching. Prospect House also has its own apiary, where a thriving bee community produces honey for the restaurant kitchen.

Prospect House is an ideal base for visitors wanting to explore the Coal River Valley wine region, the World Heritage-listed Port Arthur historic site or Greater Hobart.

Courtyard accommodation at Prospect House starts from $280 per night including breakfast - which is bloody delicious.

A cooked breakfast served by your chef from the open kitchen is not to be missed.

One of Tasmania's best addresses - without doubt.

For information visit or call (03) 6205 9740. 

# The writer was a guest of Prospect House 

Saturday 26 October 2019

A travel book that is seriously useful

There are myriad styles when it comes to travel books. 

There are the coffee-table tomes packed with beautiful pictures but little information; the guide books that feature here today-gone tomorrow hostels with details that are invariably out of date; or books that offer tons of historical context but little useful current information. 

Rare is the reference book you can grab before you head off to Munich, or Hobart, and find some genuinely useful tips. 

I've been guilty of visiting several cities and then finding out only after leaving that there was a fascinating destination just a short bus or train ride away from where I had just been. 

Newly published by Lonely Planet, Three Hours From…, is a collection of almost 900 day and weekend trips within three hours of 60 of the world’s most popular cities, from Amsterdam and Běijīng to Marrakesh and Rio de Janeiro.

Australia is represented by short escapes from Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Sydney and 
Perth, as well as the breakout lists "Australia’s best food & drink escapes", and "Oceania’s most fascinating indigenous experiences".

With sights, activities and hidden gems – all built around themes like art and culture; the outdoors and food and drink, Three Hours From… has many useful ideas for city escapes and longer stopovers. 

I had no idea the Bavarian Forest National Park, on the Czech border, was just a two-hour drive from Munich (where I visited last month) and might well have fancied an excursion to Passau. 

Likewise, lots of visitors to Hobart might be unaware they are less than an hour away from Bruny Island. 

"In this book we hope to inspire you to look beyond the city limits for your next adventure," Lonely Planet says. "Whether you’re in Delhi, Vancouver, Brisbane or Rome and whether you live there, work there, are on vacation or are simply passing through with a day to kill, we encourage you to widen your net.

"Just an hour and 40 minutes from Cape Town you can spy breaching whales from the cliff path at Hermanus; within two hours of Manhattan you can be surfing at Rockaway Beach; and if you find yourself in Běijīng with time on your hands, you can choose between rafting a scenic gorge, visiting Jin era temples, or hiking along the Great Wall – all are within three hours of the city."

Each of the 60 global cities in this book is presented with a map of the surrounding area, pinpointed with up to 18 of the most interesting things to do within three hours. 

These points are colour-coded by theme so you can easily find what you’re interested in, be they outdoor pursuits, arts and culture, history, festivals and events, film and music, or food and drink. 

The corresponding entries are listed by the time it takes to get there from the city centre.

Lonely Planet's Three Hours From… costs $29.99 and is available now wherever books are sold.

Discover country chic cuisine at Passing Clouds

Long lunches at Passing Clouds winery in the Macedon Ranges have become so popular that the country chic meals in the atmospheric Dining Room will now be served five days a week. 

Lunches will be offered Thursdays-Mondays from November 7. 

The expansion is a tribute to the work owners Cameron and Marion Leith have put into the Passing Clouds venture at Musk, just outside Daylesford, along with chef Cameron McKenzie.  

Now also available on Thursdays, the “feed me” menu is on offer for just $60 per head, or individual share plates can be ordered from the menu for parties of fewer than six.

Minimal intervention is the watch phrase here, where cooking is done over hot coals and the wines from Macedon and Bendigo reflect their terroir. 

The constantly changing menu reflects both the seasons and what is being grown in the on-site vegetable patch. 

The cellar door and dining room boast views over the vineyard and winery and the cellar door is open seven days from 10am-5pm.

A highly-recommended experience. For bookings phone (03) 5348 5550 or see

Thursday 24 October 2019

Grange back on top; Tolpuddle shines

Penfolds Grange has regained its spot as Australia's most popular wine collectible. 

Wine Ark, Australia’s largest wine storage provider and retailer of vintage wines, has released its report card on the wine cellars of Australia, showing Grange has overtaken the much more affordable Penfolds Bin 389 as the most collected wine in the country.
Wine Ark’s Most Collected Wines is a survey of the company's cellars, which hold two million bottles of wine in climate-controlled conditions. 
The list of the 50 most collected wines was first released in 2006 and is the only report of its kind in the country that measures the cellars of Australian wine collectors.
John Cuff, CEO of Wine Ark, said, “Due to the number of bottles in the count, it takes a large change to shift wines in the top 10. 
"The rise of Penfolds Grange to be the most collected wine in Australia, which is also one of the country’s most expensive wines, again emphasises the importance of this iconic wine to Australian wine collectors”.
It was though not all good news for Penfolds and other well-established wineries. 
“We are seeing a big shift away from large wineries," Cuff said. "The popularity of old cellar staples of Penfolds, Wynn's and Lindeman's is generally falling while a new breed of wineries is rising quickly. These include Tyrrell’s, Rockford, Turkey Flat and Tolpuddle Vineyard."
Tasmania’s Tolpuddle Vineyard Pinot Noir moved up 101 places to enter the top 50, underlining the increased interest by collectors in premium wines from small wineries. The fact it is made in tiny quantities makes this even more remarkable. 
"We are very excited that Tolpuddle Vineyard (below) is moving up Wine Arks Collectors’ Hit Parade,” said Michael Hill-Smith MW.
”When we bought the property in 2011 we believed that Tolpuddle Vineyard had the potential to be one of Australia’s great single vineyards. Tolpuddle is a special vineyard making small quantities of highly acclaimed individual wines from an interesting place. You can understand our excitement.” 

A quick snapshot of Wine Ark’s list of Australia's Most Collected Wines 2019:
  • Most popular wine brand:  Penfolds (eight entries)
  • Most popular wine region:  1st: Barossa (nine entries), 2nd: Hunter Valley (six entries)
  • Most popular varietal: shiraz (25 entries)
  • Most popular state: South Australia (27 entries)
  • The most collected Shiraz: Penfolds Grange #1 (Multi-regional)
  • The most collected Cabernet Shiraz: Penfolds 389 #2 (Multi-regional)
  • The most collected Cabernet Blend: Lake’s Folly #4 (Hunter Valley)
  • The most collected Cabernet Sauvignon: Moss Wood #6 (Margaret River)
  • The most collected Riesling: Grosset Polish Hill #11 (Clare Valley)
  • The most collected Chardonnay: Leeuwin Estate #10 (Margaret River)
  • The most collected Pinot Noir: Mount Mary #30 (Yarra Valley)
All the details of Australia’s Most Collected Wines can be found at

The smiling faces of Coonawarra

I make no secret of the fact that Coonawarra is one of my favourite wine regions. 

I enjoy the medium-bodied reds; the country ambiance and the warm welcome given to all visitors. 

This weekend marks the final days of the Coonawarra Cabernet Festival but there are plenty more events in 2020. 

Here are some dates for your diary: 

January 16: Coonawarra Vignerons Cup 

April 3-4: Coonawarra After Dark 

May 14-17: Penola Arts Festival

July 1-31: Coonawarra Cellar Dwellers

For full details visit And in the meantime please enjoy these images of happy Coonawarra wine people that I snapped last weekend.


Wednesday 23 October 2019

Air New Zealand says farewell to London route

Air New Zealand is to sack 130 flight crew and abandon its daily Los Angeles-London service from October 2020.

It will be replacing the axed flights with a non-stop Auckland to New York flight.

The national carrier's acting chief executive officer Jeff McDowall said that while it was difficult to farewell the London route, the airline needs to focus on the best opportunities for long-term profitable growth.

"Air New Zealand is strongest when operating direct flights to and from our home base and this reset will put us in the best possible position to take advantage of increasing demand across the Pacific Rim," he said.

The New York service, which will operate three times weekly, will launch in October 2020 and will use the company's 787-9 Dreamliner.

McDowall spoke of the "disestablishment" of the London cabin crew base and sales office.

"We will be working with our people and their union to help with the next steps in their career, including looking at opportunities in other areas of the airline, he said.

Air New Zealand has been flying the LA-London route since 1982, but McDowall said consumer choices had changed over the years.

"Today Kiwis have more than twice the number of ways to fly to London than a decade ago and preferences have changed. Less than 7% of all airline travellers between Auckland and London chose to fly via Los Angeles last year."

The New Zealand national flag carrier also used to fly to London via Hong Kong but that service ended in 2013.

New flavours unveiled for Taste of Tasmania

The Taste of Tasmania - the island state's premier gourmet festival - has unveiled some new tastes to be enjoyed on the Hobart waterfront from Saturday, December 28 to Friday, January 3, 2020.

The new stallholders are promising flavours from around the world using produce from Tasmania. Offerings range from sea urchin dumplings to tempeh. 

“We’re really pleased to be able to expand on last year’s program of new and emerging producers, bringing an even greater variety of food options for our festival-goers to enjoy," said Taste of Tasmania food curator Megan Quill. 

“This year new and emerging stallholders will be featured in a new dynamic space, The Marketplace, modelled on Tasmania’s roadside market stalls. Here guests to the festival can support growing businesses and sample some truly unique offerings."

Festival director Brooke Webb said: “Community, innovation, provenance and pride of place are all major themes of the festival program this year and these enterprising food and beverage offerings are really reflective of this. It gives visitors an opportunity to discover something new and help support new businesses in Tasmania’s thriving food industry.

“Our program of producers is one of the most multicultural ever seen at The Taste. Using 100% Tassie produce these producers will be introducing visitors to cuisines from all over the world including Nepal, Taiwan, Indonesia, Korea, Belgium, China, Thailand and Australian indigenous.” 

The Taste of Tasmania is also offering reserved seating for visitors wanting a guaranteed seat. 

With three, four-hour long, sessions on offer each day, reserved seating costs $25 per person on the waterfront or $50 per table on the riverside. Tickets to reserve seatt are on sale now.

Newcomers will include Danphe Nepalese, Manneken Eats, Monsoon Tapas, Plenty Cider, TummyThai and Indonesian Flavours. 

Entry to The Taste of Tasmania is free, with premium events (New Year’s Eve and reserved seating) being ticketed.

For details see Images: Natasha Mulhall

Tuesday 22 October 2019

UPDATE: Drinking wine does some good

The Granite Belt, Queensland's largest wine-producing region and serious food bowl, is enduring one of the most crippling droughts on record. 

The knock-on effect from global warming is now hitting parts of the community in an unprecedented manner - and the Federal Government is proving less than helpful. 

Farms that should be bursting with greenery readying crops for market are bare and dusty. Dams are parched and resemble moonscapes. 

Locals relying on town water are limited to using 100-litres per person per day with many outside this supplying hemorrhaging money to buy water for their own use, as well as water and food for their stock. 

Staff are being laid off due to a lack of work available and tourist numbers have also plummeted.

To combat this, several Granite Belt wineries have banded together to launch Wine 4 Water, a not-for-profit alliance to raise much-needed funds for another not-for-profit organisation, Granite Belt Drought Assist. 

This organisation is responsible for distributing water, food and stock feed for those Granite Belt community members in most need.

How does it all work? Go to one of the participating Granite Belt wineries listed below (either in person or online) and purchase a Wine4Water mixed six-pack for $150 - delivered. 

All wines that are part of this initiative have a retail value of over $25 each with some retailing for $39 and $45 each. 

Approximately $45 from each pack will go to those in need.

UPDATE: The initial 96 mixed six packs sold old. 

Another 130 packs are to be released for sale.
Already $4,300 has been raised for Granite Belt Drought Assist, with all sales from Round 2 hoped to bring the total raised to nearly $10 000.

For more details go to the Wine4Water Facebook page. 

Participating wineries:
Golden Grove Estate
Ridgemill Estate
Hidden Creek,
La Petite Mort
Twisted Gum
Ballandean Estate
Pyramids Road Wines
View Wines
Girraween Estate
Jester Hill Wines
Heritage Estate
Robert Channon Wines

The magic of Australia's biggest sparkling wine festival

Calling all lovers of sparkling wine.

The 2019 Effervescence festival in Tasmania is bigger and better than ever with a range of spin-off events in Hobart and at northern Tasmanian vineyards.

Now in its sixth year, Effervescence Tasmania has emerged as the pre-eminent sparkling wine event in Australia. 

Visitors are invited to celebrate Tasmanian sparkling wines and match them  against the best that the rest of the world has to offer.

There are several new events on the program, taking in the north, south and east of the state. 

Wines involved are Apogee, The House of Arras, Barringwood, Clover Hill, Delamere Vineyards, Freycinet, Ghost Rock, Jansz, Josef Chromy Wines, Moorilla, Pipers Brook, Pirie Tasmania and  Stefano Lubiana Wines.

Event partners include Bruny Island Cheese, Huon Aquaculture, Blackman Bay Oysters,
bread + butter, Tasmanian Walking Company, Barnbougle, Stillwater, Timbre Kitchen,
Cloud 9 Balloon Flights and Performance Automobiles Tasmania

Events kick off on November 9 with a golf and bubbles event at Barnbougle - one of Australia's finest links courses.

The next day sees a Tour the Derwent from Hobart to Stefano Lubiana Wines in the comfort
and class of a chauffeured Porsche or Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicles from Performance
Automobiles Hobart. This includes a private vintage wine tasting tour, hosted by Steve Lubiana, before a gastronomic lunch in Osteria Restaurant. 

House of Arras wine master Ed Carr hosts a five-course wine and food event in Macq01’s premier Old Wharf Restaurant on November 13 and a bubbles and dinner at Bluestone Bar & Kitchen in Launceston the following night.

With a base at Josef Chromy Wines at Relbia, the weekend of November 15-17 sees a huge range of dinners, tastings, masterclasses and fun events including winery tours and private imbibing.

There are also brunches, mimosas and music and other fun events, including how to smoke salmon with Huon Aquaculture and wine and cheese tastings with Bruny Island Cheese.

So much to choose from, so little time.

You'll find a full schedule at

Monday 21 October 2019

Highly recommended: An Afghan feast in rural Australia

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Coonawarra, one of my favourite wine regions in Australia. 

Coonawarra, midway between Adelaide and Melbourne, produces high-quality medium-bodied wines that often offer excellent value for money.
One of the highlights of a weekend of wining and dining as part of the Coonawarra Cabernet Celebrations was an Afghan feast at Bellwether Wines, where Sue Bell has transformed the former Glen Roy shearing shed to one of Australia's quirkiest cellar doors. 

If you are looking for atmosphere and history along with great wines, this spot should be on your list.

Over the past decade former Stonehaven winemaker Bell has transformed a decrepit 1868 building into a winery, tasting room, produce garden and sometime eatery, along with offering camping and glamping experiences.
A team of local Aghan ladies from nearby Narracorte served up a superb long table lunch on Sunday - and the same experience is available this Sunday, the final weekend of the celebrations.

The get-together for a maximum of 40 people gives visitors to chance to learn about both Afghan culture and food with a shared meal in delightful surroundings.

A meal and a glass of wine cost just $45 and bookings are essential.

Get quickly to

$30 million sees Grand Mercure transformed into a Pullman

A $30 million investment has transformed a former Grand Mercure property into a brand-new Pullman hotel – the first for Melbourne’s CBD.

Rising 15 levels and offering views of the CBD, the hotel comprises 204 guest rooms and suites and is positioned on Swanston Street at the gateway to the Little Bourke Street precinct – home to some of Melbourne’s best shopping and dining.

The new Pullman Melbourne on Swanston emerges following a complete rebuild and rebrand of the property formerly known as The Swanston Hotel Grand Mercure.

“The original building was stripped-back to its structural bones – nothing was left untouched in the major overhaul, which has delivered a striking façade, re-designed guest rooms, a designer lobby, a brand-new restaurant and an exclusive club lounge overlooking the city,” said Ricky Jeffs, CEO of Erdigroup.

Four different interior designers were engaged to create unique spaces throughout the hotel. 

The new hotel has a laneway entrance from Little Bourke Street and aimed to provide guests an authentic Melbourne experience.

“The hotel has been tailored to smart, successful business and leisure travellers who value immersive spaces, trendsetting food and beverage and leading-edge design," said Jeffs. "It will offer a seamless and intuitive experience, while providing access to Melbourne’s famed arts, culture, shopping and fashion.”

Tucked away on the mezzanine level, Eva’s Restaurant & Bar offers all-day dining and drinks.

Another feature of the new hotel is the exclusive Club Lounge, a Pullman brand signature.

Part of Accor Group, Pullman has grown to become the largest five-star hotel brand in Australia since its launch into the market 12 years ago.

The Pullman Melbourne On Swanston is the 16th Pullman hotel in Australia.

For more information:

Sunday 20 October 2019

New luxury hotel for Sydney

Sydney has a new luxury hotel brand with the opening of the Fullerton Hotel Sydney in the iconic former General Post Office building at No. 1 Martin Place.

The opening marks the first international expansion of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts, the brand central to the waterfront precinct of The Fullerton Heritage by Marina Bay in Singapore, which includes two award-winning hotels; The Fullerton Hotel Singapore and The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore.

The brand’s vision for the 416-room The Fullerton Hotel Sydney is to deliver a luxury hotel that is synonymous with warm hospitality and flair.

"We encourage our guests to embark on memorable journeys that are deeper, more colourful and more rewarding when they stay in our one-of-a-kind, landmark luxury hotels with prime addresses that are destinations unto themselves,” said Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale, general manager of The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts.

‘We are excited to open The Fullerton Hotel Sydney in a landmark building that is steeped in character and history. It is our aim to provide hotel guests and visitors with heartfelt hospitality and memorable experiences, all while showcasing the beauty and heritage of the former Sydney GPO building to a wider audience both nationally and globally."

Phase one of the remediation and maintenance work on the building’s Martin Place and George Street façade is now complete.

This marks the conclusion of a broader program to re-connect locals with the historic Sydney landmark. Stonemason and Artist, an expert team with a combined stonemasonry experience of 334 years, undertook a 38,000-hour laborious, chemical-free cleaning process to restore the building’s façade to its former glory.

In addition to its extensive revitalisation program, The Fullerton Hotel Sydney plans to shine a spotlight on the GPO building’s unique stories through Fullerton Experiences, a bespoke program featuring complimentary heritage tours and events for both hotel guests and members of the public.

The 90-minute heritage tours will also showcase the intricate stonework and reveal little-known facts of bygone years.

The Fullerton Hotel Sydney will share more than its history as a former GPO building with its sister property The Fullerton Hotel Singapore; it will also feature authentic south-east Asian cuisines alongside modern Australian dishes in the new restaurant The Places.

Thinks dishes like pan-fried red emperor and braised wagyu short rib; or Singaporean chicken rice and maybe seafood laksa.

Another Fullerton tradition is the Signature Afternoon Tea.

Guest rooms will feature signature Harman Kardon bluetooth speakers, Nespresso machines with pods, Singaporean TWG teas, and an extensive pillow menu.

See Rooms are available from AUD$380 per night, inclusive of taxes.

Saturday 19 October 2019

New budget airline for Middle East

The Middle East is to gain a new low-cost airline based in Abu Dhabi. 

Etihad Airways and Air Arabia are to launch a new joint venture called Air Arabia Abu Dhabi.

The budget airline aims to complement Etihad Airways' full service schedule from Abu Dhabi.

The new airline's board of directors, will come from members nominated by Etihad and Air Arabia but will be run as an independent standalone business, Travel Mole reports.

"We are thrilled to partner with Etihad to establish Air Arabia Abu Dhabi that will further serve the growing low-cost travel segment locally and regionally," said Adel Al Ali, group chief executive officer at Air Arabia.

"This step demonstrates the strength of the UAE aviation sector and serves the vision driving its growth."

Etihad has previously had ill-fated investments in Air Berlin and Jet Airways. 

Etihad and Air Arabia have not yet unveiled details on when the new airline would launch or what routes it will start flying.